Growing up, I always looked forward to having sons and to having the chance to teach them things that I had to learn myself, like how to dribble a basketball or how to write their first rhyme. Stuff I felt like I could do pretty well.
That’s why I was surprised, and — I have to admit — a little bummed this spring break, when my oldest son, Theo, asked me to teach him how to ride a skateboard. The last time I was on a skateboard, I flew off immediately (let’s just say my body slid further down the road than my board did).
I know nothing about riding a skateboard, so how was I expected to teach it to my sons? What I’d expected to be a spring break full of bonding and comradery between my 6-year-old son and me turned into something that left me feeling inadequate as a father.
Henry’s son Uriah (5) takes a spill.
I figured the first thing to do is get the skateboards, so we went to Amazon and loaded up on gear. We grabbed two skateboards (one for each of my sons) and some protective gear we liked because it was labeled as an “Amazon’s Choice” — highly rated, well-priced and available to ship immediately. On his new board, Theo got the hang of it right away, and I watched from the sidelines as he found his balance and felt his body weight as if it was a natural ability. I was coaching him from the sidelines and pretending like I knew what to do, encouragingly shouting, “Good job, Buddy!” and, “Don’t be scared!”
Once Theo left to get a drink of water, I snuck onto his board, put one foot on, and then I went in one direction while that skateboard went the other. My 6-year-old saw the whole thing and said, “Dang, Dad, I’m better than you!”
I realized that I might need to enlist someone to help.
Now I’m not one of those macho dads with egos, but this inadequacy thing was a whole new feeling for me because, before fatherhood, I was a part of a mentorship program that allowed me to be a source of hope for young men at a high school near my house. Some lacked the care and focus they’d need to become well-balanced adults, and I never felt inadequate in being there for them at that time.
One kid in particular, a guy named London, lost his father when he was only five years old. His mother mentioned to me that, though she wanted to find a companion to help her raise her son, she had given up hope. And I came into the picture at an age when London needed guidance. I remember this kid always being on his skateboard, his shoes roughed up with holes from performing kick flips and his jeans were torn from b-boying. He was an old-soul but lacked some of the basic knowledge you’ll want to learn as a man, such as why it might be a good idea to clean your shoes every once in a while or how to shave. I also helped him start his dreadlocks. The things that I had the privilege of teaching him were things he needed to know, and I guess I kind of became a father figure to him.
One thing I definitely didn’t need to teach London was how to skateboard — the kid was good.
So here we are at the beginning of spring break and I remember that, though I don’t know how to ride a skateboard, I know that spring break comes with a multitude of semi-professional skateboarders: college students.
London was in town visiting family and thankfully, he was glad to come by and teach my son good technique. Standing on the sidelines this time, while my son learned foundational skateboarding skills from a kid who I might have had some help in getting him to where he is today (a kid I consider to be a little brother), I realized that I’d also learned a valuable lesson: that I don’t need to know everything, and the seeds I planted and continue to plant will reap a harvest — not only for me but for my children, as well.
Uriah skates while London helps.
Theo (6) is starting to get the hang of it.
I’ve been busy, lost in the hustle of building my personal business while trying to balance it with my family responsibilities. And I have to admit that I haven’t invested much of that time with friends. But I see now that I need to rekindle those relationships, because the fruit is so powerful. What I had poured into London all those years ago pours into my kids today. I could have never imagined that London would be assisting me in this way. But I am so grateful that he did.
Theo and London high-five.
This article was paid for by Amazon and co-created by RYOT Studio. HuffPost editorial staff did not participate in the creation of this content.
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